I had these grandiose plans of writing several posts about the practice and growing interest or re-discovery of Lent,especially in less orthodox circles. But as seems to be happening more often than not lately, my ideas were waylaid by travel and health concerns that needed attending too. If there is no other sign of growth in me than this though, it is enough-- that I am less bothered by my waylaid plans than I used to be.
So Lent began and I was holed up in a hospital room, but grateful still to be there. It's funny how Lent is a season of preparation, but the more that you look forward to it, the more you spend time preparing for this season of preparing! So even though I was alone with my child in a city far from home, with no church to attend and no community arround me to engage with, I was ready to begin.
Today, I want to just share a few simple reasons why I think the practice of Lent, on a personal level, can be so helpful and important. It seems like with most things that really change and affect us, time is needed. That is the first idea behind Lent, or any "season" really. It affords time to think and mull over, to give space in your life and your heart and your soul forthe weight of important things to sink in and root themselves. Often, we come to Easter Sunday and either glide through it unaware of how flippantly we've treated the greatest celebration of our faith, or we try to engage but feel disconnected and rather disappointed in ourselves for our lack of enthusiasm- though outwardly we give lip service to this most "glorious" of days.
I think Lent can be a real remedy to both of those problems. It gives us time to pepare. But more than that, it can be a transforming time in and of itself. Any time you choose to offer yourself in a posture of humility and discipline yourself for the sake of growth, a change is bound to take place.
Traditionally, Lent has included certain disciplines such as self-examination and repentance (which come about through Scripture meditation, and prayer), fasting, prayer, and meditating on specific portions of God's Word. We joke about what we are "giving up" for Lent, but the practice of fasting is a very real and practical way of limiting ourselves in some outward physical way, in order to make room for an inward spiritual humility. I have never been good at fasting. This year, I thought long and hard about some ways (being very pregnant) I could attempt to fast from things that would be meaningful enough to me to help me get in this posture of humility. One way, among a few- is what those empty coffee cups are about up at the top of the post.
Perhaps one of the often missed and significantly important parts of Lent is the action steps that are to be taken as well. It's not just about self denial and increased prayer times. There are disciplines of increased giving, acts of generosity, sacrificial caring for those in need. Often the combination of fasting from something that you spend your resources on can also be turned into ways you can increase your giving to others. This is also not an easy one for me. It takes some thought- and the idea of sacrifice, however noble is not one easily swallowed when it comes right down to it.
But all in all, I think of Lent as like a gift. We are people made for seasons. We don't live our lives on a flat line, we need the troughs and valleys, the ceelbratory times as well as the ordinary . Lent and the Easter Triduum (from Maundy Thursday to Resurrection Sunday) are one of those heightened seasons and in the pattern of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus we can walk a road that leaves our clay pots glowing brighter with the radiance of our Savior.
This year, I have thoroughly enjoyed and found helpful the book by Bobby Gross called Living the Christian Year, which gives helpful background to the different seasons and traditions of the church calendar, as well as weekly devotional guides and Scripture readings.
But to be honest, sometimes too much of a good thing is not a good thing and I try to just read out of onlyone resource per year.